What makes pooping at the Omega Center a special experience? The Eco Machine. During a recent trip to Omega for work, I was able to tour the Eco Machine, a state-of-the-art water reclamation facility. Not just for cycling the retreat center’s water, the building is part of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) and is open to the public. Also an education center, the project is a pristine example of sustainable architecture.
One hundred percent of the facility’s waste water, including what flows down from toilets and the cafeteria, is reclaimed using no chemicals and with net zero energy. It's filtered in a process that mimics what happens in nature and returned to the underground aquifer, part of the Wappinger Creek watershed. The solar-powered building is crafted from local or reused materials and is certified LEED Platinum and was one of the first projects to be Living Building Challenge-certified, a certification and philosophy outlining sustainable construction practices regarding water, energy, sourcing of construction materials, waste, and more. The planning process was careful to omit building materials that contain toxic chemicals, and work around the fact that most are not made in the U.S. To accommodate tours and the education center, the building plans demanded the project be much larger than if it were just a water treatment center.
The OCSL incorporated reclaimed materials from a local church, and footprints on the plywood wall of the electrical room are evidence of the material’s first use as part of President Obama’s inaugural stage. The center is open for tours and the number of people who take the opportunity, more than 4,500 last year, increases annually.
The Omega Institute is a 250-acre retreat center and attracts 23,000 people annually workshops on topics like health and wellness, spirituality, community building, science, creative expression and more. The center is open seasonally, from May to October, and remains open and used by staff in the off-season because the Eco Machine is a living system that needs food…aka poop.
Omega Center for Sustainable Living: https://www.eomega.org/omega-in-action/key-initiatives/omega-center-for-sustainable-living